Catherine, mum of four and grandma of six, has had a busy life and career. She owned a hairdressing business, worked as a driving instructor, as well as caring for people at the end-of-life in the community, and is a qualified aromatherapist.
Catherine, aged 70, lives with an incurable lung condition and has learned to cope with her illness after attending a special educational and support programme at St Catherine’s, her local hospice. Catherine was first diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in 2002, but the illness really started to take its toll around three years ago.
“The worse thing about my condition is the fatigue. People really don’t realise how much it can affect you. I was a very active person so it’s hit me hard. It’s difficult to plan ahead, especially things like trips away and holidays, because you just have to take each day as it comes,” she says.
“Things which you normally do without thinking can often be a real struggle or impossible; sometimes I can’t pick my three-year-old granddaughter up for a cuddle, and that really upsets me. I can see how people could easily get depressed, it’s very frustrating, but you’ve got to fight it and stay strong. It’s a constant battle.”
Catherine attended a dedicated 10 week respiratory programme at St Catherine’s Hospice to learn more about COPD and crucially how to manage its symptoms, as well as the side effects of her medication.
“St Catherine’s really helped me to come to terms with my condition, both practically and emotionally. I’ve learnt to adapt my lifestyle and I also feel more comfortable speaking to my partner and family about what I’m going through.
“The course was also an opportunity to speak with people living with similar conditions, as well as the charity’s specialist doctors and nurses. People might think that they don’t need that kind of professional and peer support, but I found it invaluable.”
A former smoker, Catherine has suffered with chest infections all of her life, and thought it was just her asthma getting worse before she was diagnosed with COPD. She takes antibiotics to combat chest infections, and steroids to help with her breathing, but each have side effects such as hair loss and fatigue. She also uses a nebuliser and inhaler.
Catherine was referred to the hospice by her doctor at Royal Preston Hospital, after explaining that she wanted more support to manage her condition, and to discuss the restrictions it has on her life.
“The hospice has helped me understand things about my condition which I wish I’d known years ago. There were educational talks from dieticians, consultants, and physiotherapists, who talked about lung conditions and fatigue, and how to manage it.
“I realise that I have to know my limits and accept when I need to rest, but also how to make the most of my good spells. St Catherine’s is a sanctuary and gave me reason to think that my life isn’t over.”